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Nassau lawmakers approve $85.6 million contract for Family and Matrimonial Court

The new Nassau County Family and Matrimonial Court

The new Nassau County Family and Matrimonial Court building. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Legislature on Monday approved an $85.6 million contract to build out its new Family and Matrimonial Court in Mineola.

County Inspector General Jodi Franzese, who has questioned whether the job was awarded properly, will approve and oversee a monitor for the project.

The recent report by Franzese's office found that the contractor, E & A Restoration Inc., of Syosset, failed to identify key company officials and disclose campaign contributions when it bid on the job.

Lawmakers approved the contract with E & A Restoration Inc., of Syosset, in a 7-0 vote of the legislature's Rules Committee. County legislators tabled the contract at its March 9 meeting, citing concerns about Franzese's findings.

John Chiara, deputy county executive for compliance, said Monday that the administration of County Executive Laura Curran was, "committed to ensuring there is a monitor on the E & A project who will be approved by the inspector general, and not by the vendor." The monitor will provide reports to inspector general's office, Chiara said.

"It's a good practice to enhance oversight when large sums of money are concerned or involved," Franzese said in an interview.

She said it was common "for government entities to make use of monitors to help them better oversee their large construction projects, as a preventative measure."

Franzese's report said E & A failed to disclose the identities of two top company officials who would have had to disclose campaign contributions to candidates for county office made within two years of bidding on the courthouse project.

For instance, Franzese said one official, Antonios Vournou, failed to file disclosures showing a $5,000 contribution on Oct. 23, 2017 — two years before E & A bid on the courthouse contract. The donation went to Republican Jack Martins for his unsuccessful campaign for Nassau County executive, state campaign finance records show.

The company said it did not need to list the two officials, as they were not listed in tax returns and do not back corporate bonds. It identified one E & A principal, Kalliopi Vournou.

The contract's approval is key to allowing Nassau finish work on its $214.6 million courthouse project, which has been plagued by delays, cost overruns, and conflicts with other vendors since construction started in 2014.

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman's office said in a statement that the project "has seen delays and cost overruns. In order to move the project forward, the second phase could benefit from the implementation of a monitorship.”

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